iJustine reveals the surreal fan moment that made her career come full circle

Web Star IJustine on Branded Video and Her Own Pizza Hut Pizza

Sometimes it's hard for YouTube personalities to realize just how far their reach expands. Especially for those who have gone viral a few times over. If anyone understands this, it's iJustine or Justine Ezarik, the vlogger who has amassed almost 3 million subscribers and 467 million video views on YouTube alone. She notes that it's incredibly difficult to quantify what a million subscribers looks like, let alone three. But thanks to fan meet and greets, Justine is able to feel how her creative content has impacted people of all generations.

And over the past 10 years as a leading figure in the digital space, Justine has one fan moment that has stuck out to her. On her recent press tour, a young follower came up to Ezarik crying as she expressed how much she looked up to the social star. Then moments later, Ezarik saw her childhood hero, R.L. Stine and began crying herself. iJustine notes that it was in that moment, her career came full circle.

We recently sat down with the YouTube star at our New York City offices to talk to her about rise to social fame, what it has been like running a viral channel, and more! Ahead, find out about what was running through her mind the first time she hit 1 million subscribers and the one fan moment that changed her life.

YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, including more iJustine exclusives, click here.

What was running through your mind when you first hit 1 million YouTube subscribers?
I remember thinking "This is weird." But I also don't like to look at numbers either. I don't even think about it because when you try to quantify what a million people looks like, you can't see it. So it's really weird. And now I'm thinking about it, and it is very strange.

But what's great is that you do get to meet your fans in real-life. What's that like for you?
It's amazing and it is what keeps a lot of us YouTubers going. We forget sometimes why we make YouTube videos, and it's for these kids and those watching who have the same passions you do. So it is cool getting to go to meet ups and having that reminder and getting to see the joy that you bring people.

What has been your most memorable fan interaction so far?
It has to be when kids cry. And I'm like, "How am I invoking this emotion in you?" I was on my book tour and I saw this little girl balling her eyes out. And I was comforting her telling her it was okay and then I looked up and saw my childhood hero R.L Stine next to me. I was there for my book and then saw my author hero. So I started to cry, so I'm crying, this girl is crying, and R.L. Stine just had no idea what was happening. He came over and gave me a hug, but it was just a full circle moment.

Speaking of books, what led to the creation of your memoir?
It started out kind of as a joke. Years and years ago, I would tell people to save it for the book as a saying. Being such a digital person, I never thought I would want to do something so tangible, but I wanted to tell a story to talk about how I got to where I was. And I've been doing this for so long so some people don't know, because they just started watching videos of mine this year. But there's a whole other story from years leading up to this point. I just wanted something so the next time someone asked me why I'm popular, I could be like, "It's a long story, so here's hundreds and hundreds of pages about the ups and downs." It's like for bands, saying that they had this one-hit wonder when really they had been touring for 20 years, but they finally had a song people were listening to.

What was it like having to revisit moments in your life to write your book?
It was actually weird because I had to go back to my timeline in Facebook, look through tweets, and go through old photo sharing services I had that were private. I was trying to piece everything together so when I read a Tweet I could figure out if that was actually going on or if I had a decoy Tweet. Like I could have Tweeted, "I'm having the best day!" when actually I was having the worst day ever, so it was more me trying to convince myself I was having a good day. It was a lot of investigative work that went into it.

What was the hardest part about going from digital writing to print?
Everything is a lot longer. When I first started, everyone was like, "Justine, I just want to let you know that a paragraph is at least 5 Tweets." Writing Tweets and capturing short-form content and photos was writing to me. That's how I would write everything before: keep things short and go straight to the point. Today if feels like writing is about crafting phrases in the shortest amount of space possible, so expanding on things was rough. It was probably one of the most difficult things I've done. Thankfully I had a team that helped me. I definitely would do it again, since I'm more prepared right now.

You also have been working on a number of different projects right now, including your partnership with Steak n' Shake. How did that come about?
This has been so fun! I've been working with them for a couple of years now. They first reached out because they knew that I was a fan and stalking them on Twitter. They opened up a store in Santa Monica and in college that was how we survived. We would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Steak n' Shake since they were open 24 hours. They sent me an email two years ago about going to the Indy 500 and I knew nothing about it or cars or anything like that. But I think one of the things that has kept me really creative is that when I realize I know nothing about something, I decide to learn. I went out, got to ride in an Indy car, learn about the whole process, and I got to meet Graham Rahal. They sponsored his car, so I got to hang with him and he took me step-by-step. It was really fun to be able to cover it from my perspective.

Did you drive in the car?
I didn't drive, but there was a professional driver in a tandem one and it was under 200 miles per hour. But I got out of the car and I said to him, "I thought you guys said that we were going to go around a few times." But they went around like 4 laps; it went by really, really quick." After going in one of those cars, I have mad respect. I mean, I play video games and when you wreck, you can respond. But this is real life, and it's so dangerous.

YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, including more iJustine exclusives, click here.

For more past YouShouldKnow stars, scroll through the gallery below:

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I wanted to take a moment to reintroduce myself. I’m Brittany and I recognize that I seem to do a decent job of not sharing much about my actual self here or in interviews. I prefer to keep my art about the food and not myself. This community and my photography have become the biggest part of my life, I love it more than I have words to explain but there's more that makes me who I am. So for a quick moment here’s a bit- I’m 24, a taurus, live in Seattle but grew up in San Diego, my favorite food is a cheeseburger (super thin patty, toasted bun), my favorite bands are @stygoc and @metric, my first tattoo was the one on chest- it’s still my favorite and says β€˜love your life’, something many people sadly forget. I was raised by my grandparents, I love to make small collections of items like rocks and stickers, I grew up playing a lot of sports competitively, I love Star Wars and have Boba Fett tattooed on my arm but Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is my favorite movie. Many times I have been told that being an artist β€œcan’t be a real job” and that I was wasting my time trying to do so. I smile everyday not because I proved them wrong but because I achieved a goal. Dream big, everyone.
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